Ain’t Misbehavin’ – at the Huntington Theater

Ain't Misbehavin' Ain’t Misbehavin’
at the Huntington Theater
(Boston, Spetember 24, 2003)
by Matthew S. Robinson

End of the month and you’re a bit short on dough?
Have a rent party!
What’s that, you ask?
Well, if the Huntington Theatre Company’s revival of the Fats Waller musical “Ain’t Misbhavin'” is any indication, it is surely a lot of fun! Set loosely amidst one of these fund-raising social gatherings that were favored during the Harlem Renaissance (especially for the hosts), this staging of “Ain’t Misbehavin'” skirts the line between revue and musical, but most often falls into the former camp. Bookended with the very hummable title song, the show rolls through such popular compositions as “T’aint Nobody’s Biz-ness If I Do,” “Keepin Out Of Mischief Now” and “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love” and such provocative numbers as the smooth and smokey “Viper’s Drag” and the knowing double entendres of “Black and Blue.” Among the high points (aside from the doobie-ous “Viper’s Drag” of course) were a chipper music lesson in the form of “Handful of Keys,” a dreamy “Two Sleepy People” and a sole-ful version of “Your Feet’s Too Big” that was anything but pedestrian.

Though some of their harmonies had holes, the cast offered a wide range- from a skinny Zoot Suit hep cat to an operatic Little Richard, with a handful of talented women in the middle. Backing the vocal quintet was a tight but often distant sextet, led by the Waller-esque Ronald Metcalf, who tickled the ivories and the women with equal flair. With all this great music and talented performers, it would be little surprise if other companies tried to copy this show. So will rent parties ever come back? As Waller himself might say, one never knowsŠdo one?

© 2003, M. S. Robinson, ARR